ME: Not exactly, upon graduating from high school, I went to Boston to study at the Berklee School of Music. Today they call themselves the Berklee College of Music, however, it is the same institution. I have many fond memories of my stay in Boston. I choose Berklee because I had learned that Tony Williams studied with Alan Dawson. I didn't get to study with Alan the first year I was there. I did get him the following year. I studied with Les Harris and Gene Roma before I got Alan Dawson. It was there in Boston that I met David S. Ware and Gene Ashton (pianist). Most people know Gene by his new name, Cooper-Moore. We met and through talking with David S. Ware, David decided to use me in the band Apogee. I arrived in Boston after a long drive from New York City. My mom had asked my grandfather to make the long drive to Boston. After I checked into the dormitory on Newbury Street, I explored the city and visited Berklee.
The next day, I returned to Berklee to get my ID photo taken. I walked from the dorm to where Berklee's main building is on Boylston Street and got in line with a few of the guys also living in the dorm. It didn't take long for us to get our new IDs. I explored the building and discovered the rooms where students are allowed to practice the piano. During this brief excursion, I noticed a big heavy set brother composing at the piano. I looked through the window, listening to the music he was creating. I left and continued checking out the other musicians on this floor. None were doing anything compelling as the brother I had seen in the first room. I went back to this room and stood there for several minutes. The brother took note of my presence and he invited me into the room. He continued writing music while he asked me questions. I told him my name and that I was interested in learning to play free jazz. "So, you want to play free jazz? He asked, as he kept writing music and having a good hearty laugh. I learned during this conversation that his name was David Ware. David would laugh because he knew the obstacles to playing this music are extra tough. It takes the strongest artists to make it in this musical genre.
David began using his middle initial during the seventies when we did the album, Birth of a Being on HatHut Records. I didn't know he was already highly developed on his instrument. We connected and this began a long musical association that lasted until the end of 1990. We stayed in the room for about an hour. During that hour, another friend entered the room. His name was Lawrence Sands. Larry had met David the previous semester. They talked for a few minutes and David introduced me to Larry. Larry was to play a major role in my life, more on that in a little bit. When David had completed his compositions, we went downstairs to get something to eat.
Larry Sands also played tenor saxophone. Larry formed a group and I played with him and another tenor saxophonist by the name of Ted Nye. Bill Washer played electric guitar. Bill went on to work with Joe Henderson and he did appear on one of his records. I can't remember what we called ourselves, the name of the band. What was noteworthy was that Larry used concepts that moved us away from the high energy approach. He insisted that we use softer dynamics on certain pieces. Most free jazz musicians tend to lock in the high energy exclusively.
I kept in touch with David and attended a rehearsal, at his request, that afternoon, or it could have been the next day. The band consisted of Stanton Davis, trumpet, Bobby Eldridge, baritone sax, Jim Schapperoew on drums, Don Pate on bass, and Cedric Lawson on piano. These guys sounded great. This was the first time I heard David play the tenor saxophone. He did an inspired performance on his instrument. Other musicians in the room were whispering and pointing to him while he played his solo. Some even shook their heads. One musician sitting not too far from me said, "What the bleep? I'll never be able to play like that guy. He sounded like he wanted to quit playing his instrument. Good players can have that affect on aspiring musicians.
Others were slapping each other five saying "He's a bad mother f.....! I thought to myself, "This cat may be fat, but he sure knows how to blow the horn! When the rehearsal ended, Stanton talked to David about other matters. David told him he had met a young cat who wanted to play the music. Stanton asked more questions but David told him, "You don't know him. He's a new cat, David replied as he was wearing dark sunglasses, Mr. Cool, in the flesh. All he needed was a pack of cigarettes to complete the cool image he was projecting. I was standing about three feet away from David when he told Stanton this. I would later call David, "Mr. Yoga. That was an inside joke that only he and I knew the punch line. He would laugh and laugh when I called him that. It would really crack him up.
David did get to hear me play at an ensemble class in school. I was a beginner musically speaking and had a long way to go. David liked what he heard and for this reason, I believed he felt that I would work out fine being the drummer for Apogee. A veteran drummer on campus, Art Gore, also heard me play and he was very complimentary about my playing. I saw Art work with George Benson before George started singing, humming along with playing the guitar at the Jazz Workshop, a popular club in Boston. George's roots are in jazz, but I doubt that many of his fans know that. They began hearing about him when he redid "On Broadway, a popular song from the fifties.
I never cared for the song until I saw it used in the movie, All That Jazz. Visually, the music fit right in with what viewers were seeing on the screen. George Benson got very big after that. "This Masquerade was Benson's first hit. I always thought he sounded like Stevie Wonder on that song. Make no mistake, George knows music very well. Quincy Jones was impressed with his playing skills. He knew George was exceptionally talented when he asked George to play the lines up a half step or greater interval. I saw George helping singer Patty Austin learn her part. George had his part down cold. This program aired on Public Television.
And, here's a true story of how I almost met David S. Ware before I arrived in Boston. I was in the Village one night and as I walked down the street by the Village Gate, Miles Davis was there. I had already seen him, so I kept on walking. I came to a small club and the sign said Albert Ayler was playing that night. I didn't have enough money to get in. I pleaded with the man on the door to let me in. He took note of my desire to see Albert. He couldn't let me in however he did say, "Albert will be here tomorrow night. Come back with the money and you'll be able to see him play. I said, "Okay, I'll do that. I came back the next night and was sorely disappointed to learn that Albert Ayler had left the club. I guess something had happened and he didn't want to play there a second night. I was very angry at missing this opportunity to see Albert. After I got to know David, he told me that he was in the club that night. It seems that we were destined to meet one way or another. class="f-right"> Return to Index...
Meeting Other Musicians
AAJ: What other musicians did you meet while you were attending Berklee?